Having got into a winning momentum in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League, Kolkata Knight Riders will be looking to keep things that way when they take on Kings XI Punjab at the Eden Gardens in match 17 on Sunday. The win over Rajasthan Royals on Saturday could not have been better timed by KKR, who now have the luxury of their second home fixture in three days, and an opportunity to rake up their third consecutive victory.
After an impressive bowling performance on the back of Shakib Al Hasan's inspiring spell of 3 for 17, which kept Rajasthan down to 131 for 5, some useful contributions from the top and middle order saw Kolkata overhaul the target in 19.2 overs for the loss of five wickets, to move to fourth place on the points table in the process. After a slow start to the tournament which saw KKR lose their opening two matches of the competition, the trend has now been reversed as a result of back-to-back victories, against Royal Challengers Bangalore which was followed by the one against Rajasthan.
The Adam Gilchrist-led KXIP have not had the best of starts to the season. In spite of their win against Pune Warriors India in their previous match, the team finds itself eighth in the standings, just ahead of the winless Deccan Chargers. However, remarkable performances by England allrounder Dimitri Mascarenhas and Australia's Shaun Marsh gave the side their maiden victory of the tournament in the match against Pune. While Mascarenhas' figures of 5 for 25 broke the back of the PWI innings, Marsh's innings of 64 from 54 balls erased any hopes of a Pune revival, as KXIP chased down their winning target of 116 in the 18th over.
The talking point without a doubt for the Kolkata-Punjab clash would be whether former Pakistani allrounder Azhar Mahmood - now an English citizen - gets to be a part of the KXIP playing XI on Saturday. An aggressive cricketer with both bat and ball, Mahmood on his day was a dangerous proposition for the opposing team, especially in the limited-overs format. He was part of the Dhaka Gladiators outfit which recently lifted the inaugural Bangladesh Premier League title, and just might turn out to be the defining force against KKR and for the rest of the IPL season for Punjab.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Jacques Kallis, 2 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 3 Manvinder Bisla (wk), 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Ryan ten Doeshchate, 8 Debabrata Das, 9 Rajat Bhatia, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Laxmipathy Balaji
Kings XI Punjab: 1 Paul Valthaty, 2 Adam Gilchrist (capt/wk), 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Mandeep Singh, 5 David Hussey, 6 Abhishek Nayar, 7 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Ramesh Powar, 10 Parvinder Awana, 11 Praveen Kumar